Winter Woes – How to Avoid Snow Damage

by Amanda Cupp on February 23rd, 2015

Boston — and many other cities on the East Coast — have already experienced record-setting snowfall this year. And while it’s well documented how snow impacts driving, air travel and everyday schedules, many people often don’t realize the detrimental effect it can have on their homes and communities before it’s too late. So whether you live in Boston, Detroit or any other northern portion of the country, be warned: snow can be very damaging. Here’s a look at how to prevent snow damage to your home.

  • Prep Your Home: After summer, many people wait until spring to do any outdoor maintenance on their home. This is a big mistake. You should always prep your home prior to winter, clearing leaves and debris from gutters, trimming down shrubs and bushes, and making sure that downspouts are unblocked. Clear gutters make sure that melting snow can drain properly, and a well-kept yard better ensures that errant branches or yard debris won’t scratch or damage your car or home when winter winds pick up.
  • Protect Your Pipes: Snow isn’t the only thing that winter brings. Freezing temperatures are another commonality, and when temperatures dip, your pipes are more likely to freeze. If frozen pipes aren’t promptly attended to, they could break, leading to a costly water damage situation. There are many measures you can take to prevent freezing pipes, such as:
    1. Outfitting pipes in crawl spaces and near the exterior foundation with insulated pipe sleeves.
    2. Keeping the home at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit (the warmer, the better).
    3. Opening cupboards or cabinets with pipes inside during cold periods to better circulate heat within.
    4. Letting faucets drip in extreme colds to keep a consistent water flow, thereby preventing freezing.
  • Insulate the Attic: Ice dams are a serious issue in cold-weather climates. Specifically, they form following a snowfall when heat escapes from the attic, melting the snow on the roof and causing it to run off toward the edge. However, when this water gets to the cold edge, it refreezes, creating a logjam for all future runoff. With nowhere to go, this excess water can seep into the roof and cause some very serious water damage within the home. Insulating the attic so that less heat escapes can minimize — or completely prevent — ice dams from forming.
  • Buy a Roof Rake: Roof rakes can help prevent snow damage in a few different ways. They can help you safely remove snow from the roof if accumulation becomes too much and there’s the potential for it to cave in. (How do you know if accumulation is reaching dangerous levels? Look for cracking in the foundation around doors and windows. Sticking doors are another tell-tale sign.) Roof rakes can also help prevent ice dams as they better allow you to keep the areas around the roof edge free of snow so proper drainage can occur.
  • Shovel Smart: In a liquid state, snow is water. That’s obvious. What’s not always so obvious is that snow, when melted, has the potential to really cause some serious damage to your home if it melts or runs off in a way that could enter the foundation. That’s why following a heavy snowfall you should remove any significant accumulation from areas where it could enter the home. These areas often include the perimeter, as well as decks, patios and other foundations that slope in the direction of the home.

Snow can be a nuisance, even after it melts. So while you may be wishing the piles of white would just disappear, be prepared and anticipate further damage after our winter woes wash away.

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